I’m a poor stranger and far from my own, titled in some sources just I’m a poor stranger, seems to be a moderately well known tune – at least, a search returns a number of printed and recorded versions – and I’ve found it In J. L. Molloy’s The Songs of Ireland (1873,) where the version annotated here is from, as well as in Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music. A pamphlet, Four Songs, published in Kilmarnock in 1800, includes the lyrics but no music for a song titled The Happy Strangers, the lyrics of which are somewhat similar to those given by the sources mentioned above for this tune, and one line of which reads “I am a poor stranger and far from my home.” If, as I suspect, The Happy Strangers was sung to the same air as I’m a poor stranger and far from my own, its appearance in a book of 1800 may be taken as inferential evidence of the age of the tune.
I couldn’t find this tune on TheSession.org, at least under this title. The tune seems to me a plangent and passionate one; the more’s the pity that the lyrics, which begin:
“One cold winter morning, dejected and pale,
too frail to encounter the sharp piercing gale,
a fair maiden wander’d all worried and lone,
sighing, “I’m a poor stranger and far from my own. …”
are so treacly with Victorian sentiment as inevitably to call to mind Oscar Wilde’s well known remark on a pathetic scene in Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, that “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”
I’ve included an arrangement of this tune in my chamber composition Four Irish Songs for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, and Percussion — it’s the second of the four songs in the piece. Anyone interested can find the score and audio file (generated with software as a demo) at: